You Don’t Need a Man?

happy couple

There’s a super popular mantra right now.  I guess it’s been popular for years, maybe decades.

You don’t need a man.

The mantra is sometimes accompanied by the following addendums:

Girl, you got your own money!

Girl, you’re as smart as any man, probably smarter!

Girl, you need to be out there killin’ it for YOU!

Girl, you didn’t get all that education to spend your life serving a grown man!

WARNING:  I’m going to share my opinion accompanied by my personal experience.  I’m just throwing that warning out in case any of y’all want to jump ship on this blog.  It won’t hurt my feelings at all.  I will still love you forever and ever.  Now is your time to grab a life jacket and jump over the side.  If you choose to remain on ship, please be open.  Be kind.

In my humble opinion we’ve been sold a bill of goods when it comes to modern romance and marriage.  The marriage bond has been painted so dreadfully with muted shades of tan.  Two highly independent people.  Two completely independent lives.  Separate bank accounts.  Separate dreams and goals.  Separate time schedules. Just kinda hangin’ out in the same house occasionally…

And we wonder why young people aren’t interested in marriage?  It doesn’t surprise me at all that they’re not buying  it.  We’ve made it out to be so bland and horribly ordinary.  I’m so sorry.  So very sorry.  

Young women, I have a confession.  I need Philip.  Desperately.  He needs me too.  Desperately.   It’s been true for 32 years. 

I choose to need him every single day.  And in that choosing to need him, he feels highly respected.   He chooses to need me every single day.   And in his choosing to need me, I feel incredibly loved.  And it’s not that we couldn’t make it on our own…

It’s that we wouldn’t want to.  Not even for one day.  Independence is so overrated, friend.  Especially now.  Especially in our current culture that is so afraid of getting stepped on…that they miss the extraordinary  joys of serving someone.

I wouldn’t want to get up in the morning and not make the coffee.  He wouldn’t want to get up in the morning  and not pour my coffee and bring it to me in my chair.  Yes.  He could learn to make coffee.  Yes.  I could pour it myself.  Yes.  He could probably pack his own lunch.  Yes.  I could read the Bible passage alone.  Yes.  He could pray without me praying with him.  I guess he could even learn that that green shirt does not match those brown pants.  And I could probably load my speaking props into my own car.  But you know what?  It’s a lot more fun to do those things FOR each other.  (And who am I kidding?  He will never understand why that shirt doesn’t match those pants.  Bless him.)

It would be unfair and biased if I didn’t acknowledge the relational hurt behind some of the hyper-independence being touted in our current culture.  I see you, friend.  I do.  I get it.  You served.  You opened up your life to another, only to get slapped in the face (literally or figuratively).  Or maybe you watched relationships done so poorly growing up.  So you made a vow.  A vow to yourself.  You wouldn’t be so naive.  You’d protect yourself at all cost.  Can I challenge you, friend?    I challenge you to believe that maybe God has something better for you than self-protection.

This is not a blog trying to make singleness less than marriage.  Singleness is not less.  This blog is just a reminder, especially for those already married, that it’s perfectly healthy to live a life of service.  And it’s okay to need someone.  In fact, it’s beautiful.

Questions and/or complaints can be lodged in the comments section.  (I’m not skeeeeered.  Okay.  Maybe I’m a little skeeered).happy couple






Our Inheritance

old pics

Someone is going to go through all your things someday. Every drawer will be opened.  Every cabinet will be emptied onto the counter.  The contents of your garage (yes, even the ugly Christmas decorations you haven’t used for years) will all be laid bare.  I know this firsthand.

Mama died quickly of a rare brain virus almost two years ago.  Though heartbreaking for the rest of us, that was the gift she had always wanted.  The gift of never getting old or sick.  She enthusiastically cooked for the church potluck one day and was in heaven two weeks later. Daddy also was in good health.  Tragically, he died in a car accident on April 7th.

Unlocking the door of their house on the evening of April 7th I experienced one of the saddest moments of my life.  Daddy’s prescription medicines were still laid out on the table beside his recliner.  Mama’s clean and organized kitchen, bathed in absolute silence.  They were gone.  Both of them.  Phil and I walked slowly through the house, quietly and reverently at first as though we were in a museum or at a funeral.  Silence was broken only when we both started laughing about Daddy’s old navy blue recliner.   If recliners could talk, this one could have hosted a podcast.  They could have easily replaced the old recliner with a brand new one, but they didn’t.  That wasn’t their way.  They always had $1000 or two available to give to someone in need, but they couldn’t bear to replace the old recliner.  A beautiful way to live.

For more than a month now, we’ve been emptying drawers.  Meticulously going through closets.  Pulling boxes from the garage.  Making decisions.  What to give away.  What to keep.  What to sell.  To be honest, the average burglar would be highly disappointed with the contents of Mama and Daddy’s house.  An old Mr. Coffee.  Walmart bookshelves filled with good books.  The ceramic dog bookends Mama bought the year she turned ten.  Great Aunt Nellie’s gaudy earrings.  Aunt Lucille’s recipe book.  A lifetime supply of soap and toilet paper.

They had filing cabinets filled with organized pictures.  Family Christmas programs Mama wrote, to be performed by the grandkids and great grandkids.  Desk drawers filled with buttons, markers, pencils, and every kind of school supply known to man.  Granny’s old lamp.  My grandfather’s school bell that faithfully called children into a one room schoolhouse nearly a century ago.  A long wooden dining room table, worn around the edges…a place where thousands (no exaggeration) have sat and been fed and loved by my parents.  A few blue striped towels folded neatly in the bathroom closet.  Expensive pots and pans Daddy bought Mama for Christmas in ‘74.   Beautiful tablecloths folded neatly in the china cabinet.  To most people, my parents left absolutely nothing of consequence behind.  To us, they left an irreplaceable inheritance.


In one drawer, I found several lined notebooks full of scripture my mom had written out over a period of years.  A few times she would pen a question after a particularly poignant passage.  “How can I love people better?”  I whispered through tears, “You loved people beautifully, Mama.”

mom scripture


We found one file folder full of letters they received from prisoners with whom they corresponded.  One box contained literally thousands of thank you notes that always began something like, “You can’t know how much your kindness meant to me during this particular time of suffering.”  OR “We were shocked to receive your financial gift and encouraging letter in the mail.”  Files of pictures from mission trips at home and abroad.  One picture stands out in my mind.  Mama and Daddy smiling, covered in mud, using buckets to clean out a lady’s basement after a flood in Iowa.  I remember them telling this particular story.  The older lady came down the stairs and asked, “Why in the world would you do this?  You don’t even know me.”  Mama and Daddy replied, “Because Jesus loves you.  And we do too.”

In order to preserve our family history, over the last month, Phil has scanned more than 6000 pictures.  Several of the yellowing photos were housed in those horrible “sticky cling wrap” photo albums of the 70’s.  Those albums contained the childhood my brother and I were blessed to share.  Every new puppy.  Every Christmas at Granny and Pappa’s farm.  Every barefoot summer.

I spent one afternoon last week just sitting in the garage, reading my parents’ love letters from the 50’s.  Daddy couldn’t spell.  Mama made nearly all A’s in college.  But it was a perfect match.  Daddy, not being known for his writing ability, once wrote, “I have nothing to say.  But I think about you always.  I’ll love you forever.”

Mama and Daddy’s house is under contract now.  In a few weeks, the papers will all be signed and their earthly possessions properly distributed.  Hopefully, we will have the garage cleaned out by then and the last bit of furniture will be given away to a college student or young family.  A few times I’ve had to make hard decisions and throw away something I desperately wanted to keep.  There simply isn’t enough room in our house to keep every scrap of paper or every sentimental object.  One afternoon, I had a good cry as I threw away a box full of thank you notes they had received.  I wiped my tears, and said, “God, their generosity was to Christ’s glory.  It need not be preserved on this side of eternity.  Give us the grace to carry that generosity forward.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

And that is what they both would have wanted.  They would want us to throw away what needed to be thrown away without reservation.  They’d want us to keep the things we could use or the things we treasured.  They’d be happy for us to give away what needed to be given away with great joy.  But most of all?  Most of all, they’d want us to get the job done well and get on with the ministry at hand.

When we lock the door for the last time, there will be tears.  The end of an era.  No more Christmas programs in their living room.  No more dinners around their worn wooden table.  Their life and ministry is complete and they are now rejoicing in heaven, along with my brother and many believers who have gone on before.  They no longer care whether we cleaned the house well for the new owners (but yes, Mama, we did).  And as I walk down that sidewalk for the final time, I have a feeling I’ll hear Mama and Daddy’s voices loud and clear.  “Jesus loves you.  And we do too.”

Golden Summer 2016 B

Does Phil Talk about God?

IMG_7493“Lisa, I hear you’re interested in that cute guy who tutored you this summer.   Phil’s his name, right?  Yeah.  Seems like a pretty nice guy.  Kinda quiet.  Look, I love you enough to ask you a pivotal question.  Does he talk about God?  I mean, does he seem really excited about what God’s doing in the world?”

My head lowered and I responded truthfully, “No.  Not really.  You’re right.  He is kinda quiet.”

“Lisa, you’re heading to the mission field, right?  I mean, girl, you’re excited about Jesus, evangelism, discipleship.  You’re a leader in our ministry and I love you enough to tell you the truth.  You don’t want to marry a man who doesn’t talk about God.  Have you even heard his testimony?”

“Not really.  Bits and pieces, I guess.”

The conversation continued throughout the afternoon.  This woman loved me very much and wanted my best.  She loved God profoundly and was wise in a lot of ways.  I trusted her.  So that night I did something very difficult.   Something I thought was God’s will.   I called the man in Tennessee who had only recently declared his undying love for me.

“Phil, I’m so sorry.”

“Sorry about what?”

“I jumped in too soon.  I wasn’t thinking clearly.  The other night, on the phone, when you told me you loved me, I guess I just got caught up in the moment.  Got off track a little bit.  I should have never said I loved you.  We were just friends this summer, right?  I’m absolutely certain I’m going to the foreign mission field.  Somehow I just let my feelings get in the way of my calling.  And I’m terribly sorry.  I never meant to hurt you, but we can’t be in a relationship right now.  I live in Texas.  You live in Tennessee.  I’m going overseas.  You’re going to be a pilot.  All we can be is good friends.”

The silence was deafening.  Finally after moments that seemed like hours, he spoke.  “I’m disappointed.  I was serious when I told you I loved you.  But if that’s not what you want, if I’m not the person you want, I’ll have to accept it.”

When the phone went dead, I was supposed to feel better.  Relief even.  After all, I was about to compromise and get all serious and maybe even marry a guy that could never talk as smoothly or as excitedly about the things of God as the guys in my ministry group.  I was about to enter into a very serious relationship with a guy who had never been overseas, didn’t know the Bible as well as I did, hadn’t memorized his testimony, and probably didn’t even know all the lyrics to Keith Green songs.  Whew!  Bullet dodged.

But I was miserable.  Oh, how I cried.  Phil was the kindest friend I’d ever known.  My wise Godly mom walked into my room and asked a simple question, “If it hurts so bad to be without Phil, why did you break up?”  I recounted all the ways he was simply not the man for me.  “Mom, even my friends agree.  He would never be able to lead me in the faith.”

How I thank God for the wisdom of my mature and merciful mother who had also been his boss at work.  “What?  Lisa, I found Phil to be a man of serious faith.  Look at his kindness, his selflessness, the way he served you and others.  And didn’t he join that Bible study at the church?”

“Mom, yes.  He joined the study.  But he could never lead the study.  He hardly even knows the Bible.  How could he lead me?”

My mom spoke with clarity.  “Lisa, every Christian man wants to lead.  It’s deep down inside, given to them by God.  The question is not whether Phil will learn to lead, but whether you will learn to follow.”

Every day for almost 32 years I have thanked God for my mom’s incredible wisdom.  Every day I’ve been grateful for her discernment.  My friends were wrong and so was I.  Even my mentor was off on this one.  We all wanted Phil to talk the talk.  That would come later.  God wanted me to observe how he walked the walk.  That was of utmost importance.

About 48 hours passed and I called Phil and told him I’d been an idiot.  He expressed relief and said he’d been tempted to call, but felt it was wise to let me work it out.  Beautifully gracious.  This was/is his way.  Blessedly, we never ever broke up again.  We got engaged in December and we married in April.

Those first few years of marriage, we faithfully served together in a little church.  He learned to lead with love.  I learned to follow with joy.   It was a process.  A beautiful process.

Fast forward 32 years.  Phil facilitates a men’s Bible study.  He can share his testimony, and talk theology.  He knows the Bible far better than me.  We’ve traveled to a lot of places, and a lot of people have sat in our living room for his wise counsel over the years.

But can I tell you something beautiful?  Those things are not the end all of his Christian character.  They’re just the results of God working in His life all these years, slowly, beautifully.  Ordinary grace provided by an extraordinary Savior.

Young Christian woman, lean in and listen carefully.  Marry the giver.  Marry the one who doesn’t always seek the spotlight.  Marry the one who others may think is too quiet or too boring or too ordinary.  Marry the one who knows how to change a tire for a woman on the side of the road…and who will actually stop and do it.  Marry that guy.  And then respect him.  Love and respect him every single day in 1000 ways.

The beauty of your Christian marriage will be marked by character, not chatter.  By selflessness, not self-promotion.  By late night runs for baby Tylenol.  Hand holding at hospitals.  By lots of “I was wrong.  Will you please forgive me?”  And lots of “I was wrong too.  Will you please forgive me too?”  There will be endless amounts of humility and forgiveness required.  The extraordinary beauty of him lying up close to you night after glorious night because he promised you he would stay.  And he does.  And with each passing year, you both talk about how you thought it couldn’t get better.  And then it did.

We live in a world of endless chatter, friend.  A world that honors lip service above real service.  Thank you, Mama.  Thank you for helping me see clearly that day.  Thank you for teaching me that the heart of a man is not in what he says, but what he does.

Contact Lisa on FB at lisasmarttbooks or through her website at







Is Romance Dead?


Pride and prejudice

Is romance dead?  No.  But it seems to be on life support.  Look around.  How many young couples do you witness dating or making plans for a lifelong romance in marriage?  I know there are some.  But in my contact with young people, there are fewer and fewer with each passing year.  Why?  What follows is simply my humble opinion, so feel free to disagree.

Three Things that Can Put Romance on Life Support:

1. Fear.  Yeah.  I know.  You thought I was going to list the “hook up culture” as the number one reason.  Trust me.  I am very concerned about that, but FEAR is something that doesn’t get talked about enough.  Oh, and ironically, fear of true intimacy is also directly related to the hook up culture.  What are young people SO desperately afraid of?  Why are folks in their 20’s and 30’s “hanging out” instead of pursuing dating and marriage? Why are they afraid to go ALL IN emotionally, spiritually, and financially with one person?   Truthfully, there IS something wonderfully frightening about true romance and marriage planning. Note:  I said marriage planning, not wedding planning.  Wedding planning merely requires a tasteful consultant.  Marriage planning requires extreme emotional and spiritual risk and commitment.  But the extreme risk?  Well, that’s part of what makes it all so very beautiful.  Sacred even.  Fear not.

2. Sex before marriage.  I know.  It’s 2019.  Go ahead.  Throw rocks.  I don’t live in a glass house and I can take it.  Sex is a bonding activity.  A oneness thing.  Casual sex by its very nature kills love and romance.  That doesn’t mean folks can’t recover, heal, be made completely whole.  Absolutely.  His mercies are new every morning.  But young people, hear me out.  This may seem old fashioned, but there’s an order to things and it’s actually beautiful.  Go on dates.  Talk.  Get to know one another.  Visit with family members.  Talk about serious things.  Have fun together.  Consult with happily married folks.  Get humble.  Get help.  Get engaged.  Get married a few months later.  Become physically intimate.  Decide to love sacrificially.  Surround yourselves with people who will help you.  Keep loving for the rest of your lives. 

3. Bad counsel from my generation. Examples:   Before you marry, you must become financially successful.  Finish all your education.    Adopt a puppy.   Become well rounded.  Grow up.  Start an IRA.  Build that savings account.  Build a deck onto the back of your house.  You must know each other at least 3.7 years.  Start your own business.  Buy new car mats.  Get the oil changed every 5,000 miles.  Become completely independent.  Wallpaper the hall bathroom (Okay.  Most people consider wallpapering more of an “old people” thing, but still).  You get my point.  The counsel is basically:  Get your life COMPLETELY in order before you marry.  Whew!  I cannot tell you how THRILLED I am that Phil and I did not receive that kind of counsel.  We knew each other less than a year when we got married.  Eventually, we did do all those things (well, everything except the wallpapering) but we did them together.  We grew up together.  We became financially stable together.  We built a life together.  We traveled together.  How thankful I am that neither of us had any money when we got married.  Just some dreams.  And a lot of love.

By today’s standards, ours was a whirlwind romance.  But  it was a lot more than just a tornado of emotions and hormones.  More than three decades ago, we held hands and jumped into the deep water of a lifelong commitment, believing God would sustain us and help us .  And He did. He did more than just sustain us.  He gave us joy!  Young people, fear not.  Jump in.  The water’s fine.

All I Want for Christmas…

christmas tree

I come from a long line of practical women.  You know those jewelry store commercials that show the mom opening a diamond bracelet on Christmas morning?  Yeah.  In my 56 years of living, no woman in my family has ever opened a diamond bracelet on Christmas morning.   In fact, I doubt my lovely mother or grandmother ever spent one second of their years on earth even considering whether or not they would get a diamond bracelet for Christmas.  They were busy wondering if they had enough leftover cornbread to make good dressing for our family dinner.

In my family Christmas gift giving is all about practicality.  When I was eight years old, I bought my mom a pair of pantyhose for Christmas.  I’m serious.  She was thrilled.  The next year my brother and I went in together and got her a plastic paper towel holder for the kitchen.  We even offered to mount it ourselves.  It was just what she wanted!

I often got my dad navy blue dress socks or a bottle of English Leather after shave.  He was delighted.  Then there was the “school project ashtray” era.  Amazing how much my mom and dad loved ashtrays, year after year after year.  Who knew?

My grandparents were the same way.  One year Granny got a new handmade rolling pin for Christmas.  It was a treasured gift.  Sometimes we got her new cloth placemats or a new tablecloth because she loved having company, lots of company.  Blessedly, she passed that tradition down to my mom who passed it down to me.  She received Tupperware bowls and pink house shoes and dusting powder and cheap perfume.

Pappa got white socks or overalls or bandana handkerchiefs or shiny new ties which he wore to church.   And all of the gifts were received the same way… with joy and appreciation.  Ironically, those gifts were exactly what they wanted.  Each and every year.

When I was a girl, I remember asking my mom and dad what they REALLY wanted for Christmas.  You know, if they could have REAL presents, not just a paper towel holder or a housecoat or navy blue dress socks, but a big present.  They both smiled and said, “We have everything we want, Lisa.”  I thought that was odd.  Everything they want?  How could human beings ever have everything they wanted?

That was the year I was tearing through the Sears Christmas catalog at the speed of light.  I wanted a Barbie camper and an Easy Bake Oven.  I definitely did NOT have everything I wanted yet because I had never made a rubbery bad-tasting cupcake with a light bulb.   And until I did, life was going to have a lot less meaning.  Mom and Dad were simply setting their sights too low.

My Granny, Pappa, my mom, and my brother are in heaven now, in the presence of Jesus.  There’s no more need for cheap dusting powder or shiny ties.  They’re experiencing something far better.  Oh, how we miss them!  Dad is doing well and we’re blessed to have him nearby.  I’m privileged to now be the one making the cornbread dressing and preparing the dinners.  And I do see it as a great privilege.  Oh, and if our grown sons ask Phil and me what we really want for Christmas this year?  It will be easy for us to answer with our ancestors.  Blessedly, we have everything we want.

Hope for Fellow ADDICTS

bio pic LSmartt


I’m an addict.  I don’t mean I “struggle” or I’m sometimes “weak.”  No.  I mean, I am a straight up ADDICT.  Like all addicts, I have lied, dug through trash, cried, made promises to myself, gone through rampant times of depression and agony, and done some of the most inappropriate things on the face of the earth…all for my drug of choice.  Why?  Because that’s what addicts do. Friends, let me be clear.  When it comes to addiction, there’s nothing new under the sun.  We all pretty much do the same destructive things in the same destructive order and always resulting in the same destructive outcomes.  But we keep going full bore, headlong into disaster.  I know.  It’s insanity.  I get it.

On June 12th of this year, something happened.  I can’t describe it as anything less than divine intervention.  I literally grabbed my phone that day and before I had a chance to change my mind, I made a video confessing my addiction and my desire to make a massive change.  I posted that video on my FB author page.  That was the beginning of something beautiful.  Confession.  No more hiding.  All out in the open.  I cannot describe the FREEDOM of  posting that 3-minute video.  Confessing it to God.  To others.  Even to people I don’t know.  And not caring any more.  Yeah.  That was the best part.  Not caring.  Not caring if people thought me weak or horrible or out of control or depraved. The only way I could find true healing was to not care any more.

I’m a sugar addict and it was literally killing me.  Like all addicts, I’m embarrassed of the things I’ve done.  I’ve eaten out of the trash can.  I’ve hidden food.  Lied about food.  I’ve eaten in the bathroom so nobody would see me.  I’ve stuffed myself with sugar until depression overtook me with such fervor that I didn’t want to leave the house.  I’ve cried and tried harder.  I’ve hurt and wailed.  I’ve asked for seat belt extenders on airplanes.  I’ve gone through drive-thru lanes at inappropriate times of the day, all the while telling myself not to do it…but doing it anyway.  Because that’s what addicts do.  They keep doing the most irrational sinful thing on the planet…all the while knowing the end result will be misery.  Absolute misery.

I can’t say exactly what happened on June 12th.  I know this.  I haven’t been the same since that day.  I have not eaten a dessert, candy, soda, or any of my drugs of choice since that day.  I haven’t gone through a drive-thru to get a milkshake.  I haven’t eaten ice cream or birthday cake or a brownie.  I can’t explain it all.  That day I was at ROCK BOTTOM and rock bottom is where God does some of His best work.  His most beautiful work.   I cried on the video, saying I was going off sugar the way an alcoholic goes off drinking.  It had to be that way.  After decades of addiction, I knew it.  It was the only way to live free.

I’m comforted by these words, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (I Peter 5:5)  Thank you, God.  Thank you.  Thank you that my human frame was so eaten up with struggle and grief and dysfunction, yet you love me.  Oh, how you love me!  How could I ever look on another human being with disdain and superiority?  It cannot be.  Only the Savior is good.  Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  ALL.  None righteous.  No, not one.  An equal playing field of dysfunction and error and sin…and a great need for a Savior.

Are you an alcoholic?  A drug addict?  Porn addict?  Sex addict?  Materialist?  Filled with rage?  Angry parent?  Sugar addict?  Control freak?  Tell someone.  Tell a group of people.  Don’t be embarrassed to seek help.  Jesus died for you.  He paid for all the nastiness you and I have ever done.  He won the battle because He knew full well we couldn’t.  He rose again and lives in victory…even though we’ve been living in defeat.  Oh, and he sees you, friend.  Right now.  Where you are.  He sees you.  He’s not afraid of your past or your present.  He’s ready to forgive and cleanse (I John 1:9) and make some beautiful changes you can’t make on your own.  Yes.  He knows you’re at rock bottom.  And believe it or not, rock bottom is exactly where He meets people…people like you…people like me.  FB author page:








Halloween Candy Conspiracy



There’s a conspiracy in America.  I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t warn all readers out there.  It’s called the “Halloween Candy Conspiracy.”  Buyer beware.

The conspiracy unfolds in early September.  Aisles and aisles of Halloween candy surface in every major retail outlet.  Wait!  Isn’t it a bit early to be selling Halloween candy?  Oh no.  It’s all part of their twisted little plan, friend.  It starts with a sign that proclaims, “SALE!  STOCK UP NOW!  Was: $3.69.  Now:  $2.99.”

Seeing the sale sign, one immediately says, “Gosh, I better grab a few bags of Snickers and M&M’s.  I’d hate to be caught off guard in eight weeks when I’ll actually be needing the candy for trick-or-treaters or school parties.”   And so the cycle of doom begins.

Naïve Americans buy the candy and put it on the top shelf of the pantry.  Everything is fine.  Fine until the next day at about 4:30 p.m.  That’s when it hits.  The longing.  The yearning.  I’m convinced there are times a human being would sell his or her car for a Hershey bar.  But, of course, that’s not necessary.  Thanks to the Halloween candy sale, there’s a luring sound coming from her very own pantry.  Sure.  She could eat a banana.  An apple.  A stale rice cake.  But no.  The Snickers bag sings a siren song.

A week later the same shopper is back at the local retail outlet.  All bags of candy purchased last week are gone and the shopper is determined to buy nothing but the absolute necessities.  But there it is.  Aisles and aisles of chocolate candy.  This time it’s no longer $2.99/bag.  Oh no.  The conspirators have it marked down to $2.50.  A huge sign reminds every shopper, “IT WON’T LAST!”  What an understatement.

Lured by a good deal, the naïve shopper once again takes the bait.  With pure determination in her eyes, she hides the bags high above the towels and toilet paper in the guest bathroom closet.  She is determined not to get within ten feet of the candy until the first doorbell ring on Oct. 31st.  Day one passes.  No transgression.  Day two passes with no problem.  On day three the devious little kids say, “Mom, can’t we have just one piece of the Halloween candy?”  Resolve crumbles.  She innocently says, “I guess a piece or two or three won’t hurt.”  Within four days, all candy is a mere memory.

Our naïve friend returns once again to the retail outlet.  This time she decides to walk in and head straight for the light bulb aisle. As she walks through the parking lot she says under her breath, “I’ll just pass out kiwi fruit to all the neighborhood kids.  What kid doesn’t love kiwi?”

When she walks in the front door, a large shelf of chocolate candy is positioned right by the entrance.  A sign the size of Delaware proclaims, “Candy Sale.  $1.50/bag.  BARGAIN!  BARGAIN!  BARGAIN!”  Does our shopper see the sign and flee?  Oh no.  She says aloud, “I guess it IS insensitive to give the neighborhood kids kiwi fruit. I’ll just pick up a few bags of Butterfingers.”

And so it goes.  A terrible cycle of gloom and doom.  Take heed, my friend.  Take heed.  Before it’s all said and done, the average American spends approximately $179.00 on Halloween candy and an additional $250 on bigger jeans.  Oh, and what about those darling little trick-or-treaters?  They get stuck with Starlight mints left over from the Soybean parade.


Are you Rich or Poor?


When I was a little girl, I liked going to the bank with Mama and Daddy. When I saw how much money they were depositing every month, I felt sure they were holdin’ out on my brother and me.  My parents, both teachers, must be stock-piling thousands of dollars in a Swiss account somewhere.  Every time I saw the deposit amount, my eyes grew wide.  We were rich.  Filthy stinkin’ rich.  What in the world were they doing with all that money?  My brother and I could be swimming in our own pool, eating out every meal, and flying to Paris for family vacations. We could even own a juke box and a pool table…if only Mom and Dad weren’t so stingy with their apparent wealth.   To add insult to injury, Mom didn’t even let us buy Cocoa Puffs every week.  “Too expensive,” she’d say. What could this woman be thinking?  Did she think we didn’t know?

While riding in the backseat of that ’71 yellow Le Sabre, I made a decision.  I wasn’t going to be like my parents.  Oh no.  I’d be much more generous with my kids when I was rollin’ in the dough.  We’d eat Cocoa Puffs for breakfast and Fruity Pebbles for lunch. We’d go to Mike’s Diner every night for supper.  If we didn’t eat at Mike’s Diner, we’d have Banquet frozen dinners. (Mom hardly ever let us buy Banquet frozen dinners.)  In the summer, we’d fly to exotic vacation spots and buy flowery shirts and drink chocolate milk out of coconuts.  Every time we drove past the Dairy Barn, we’d stop for ice cream.  I’d NEVER say, “Not today.”  No.  My kids would never ask to stop at the Dairy Barn and hear the words, “Not today.” Wow, my kids would be the luckiest kids in the world.

But you guessed it.  Fast forward 30 years and our kids grew up pretty much like I did.  They heard phrases like, “Sweetie, put these crackers back and get the ones in the black and white box.”  “We don’t need to eat out.  We’ve got good food at home.”  “The Dairy Barn?  No, Honey, not today.”

In 2019, we live in a world filled with social media images.  Images of family trips to the beach.  Images of European cruises and weekly mani/pedi appointments.  Images of new cars and expensive meals out.

And sometimes?  Sometimes you may be tempted to think, “The whole world is doing better than we are.  My family is just broke.  We’re working hard but we’re missing out on the good life.  We’re paying the electric bill.  But there’s nothing left for a summer vacation.  Our kids will probably resent us.  They’ll get mad when we can’t buy the latest phone or cool clothes.  They’ll grow tired of being denied the things all their friends have.”

May I be perfectly honest?  Grow up, friend.  Seriously.  Grow up.  Your kids may not be grown yet, but you are.  So act like a grown person.  Can I let you in on a little secret?  A secret to extreme happiness?  Grown people don’t cry over what they don’t have.  They rejoice over what they do have.  They relish the blessings of hard work.  They know that eating food several times a day is an indicator of great wealth.  And they celebrate that wealth with extreme appreciation.  Grown people see cutting a watermelon in the back yard as a moment of family celebration.  A life of extreme blessing.

Look at past generations in your own family.  Did your grandmother take you on exotic vacations?  Did your dad hand you a $900 phone because you were breathing?  Did your parents take you out to eat every other night?  If they did, that’s fine.  Let me clarify.  There is nothing wrong with renting a beach house or going on an exotic vacation (if you don’t go in debt to do it).  Those are blessings.  Wonderful blessings!

But I’m guessing most of you come from families like mine, families that thought summertime fun meant spraying each other with a water hose.  Or eating home-grown corn and tomatoes on the picnic table.   If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know my grandparents gave us underwear every year for Christmas.  Every single year.  Oh, and we acted like we were excited about that underwear too.  Why did we act like we were excited about underwear?   Because our parents raised us to have manners, and that included expressing our annual underwear enthusiasm.

Our parents didn’t give us everything we wanted.   They gave us something way better.  They were wildly content with their lives and their blessings.  They passed that contentment on to us.  And we loved them.  We loved them beyond what can be expressed in this blog.

When our boys were preschoolers, a pack of gum was considered a luxury item.  I recently looked over some old pictures of our days in that trailer park in Texas.   Phil turned an old cooler into an amusement park ride.  The boys took turns getting into the cooler and then Phil would slowly lift them from the ground while making engine noises.  They were delirious with joy.  And so were we.  Yes, we go on different vacations now.  But the joy?  It’s that same exact joy.

Kids who have more aren’t necessarily spoiled.  Kids who have less aren’t necessarily resentful.  No. The truth?  It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or barely making the electric bill.  Kids are looking to their parents to find out what they need in order to be happy.  So be thankful.  Be appreciative.  Be a grown-up.  Stop whining about things you wish you had or places you wish you could go.  Stop.  Thank God for the food on your table and the ones there to eat it.  And your kids?  Someday they’ll thank you.  They’ll thank you because no matter their financial situation, they’ll have everything they need.

Green Hair and Mama’s Death



Two things happened last week.  Our 23-year-old son had his hair dyed neon green right before the beginning of fall semester, and we marked the one year anniversary of my mom’s death.  Believe it or not, those two things are connected.  So beautifully connected.

Last week several adults, mostly middle-aged and gainfully employed with their shirts tucked in, asked Phil and me, “So, what do you think about Stephen’s hair?”  I’m sure some of them expected us to rant a little bit because we too are middle-aged, gainfully employed, and Phil tucks his JCPenney button up shirt into those khaki pants nearly every day of his life.

Perhaps they expected us to say things like, “Young people nowadays…what are they thinking?”  Or, “Why in the world would he do such a thing?”  We just smiled and said, “It is definitely Stephen-ish.”

My mama taught us that gracious response.  Her life was one big merciful lesson in love and grace.  She was a master at discerning the things that mattered and the things that didn’t.  She knew the word of God well, and was able to clearly articulate Biblical principles.  When our boys were little and I felt unsure about discipline, she always reminded me, “Never discipline them for fear of what others might think.  You and Phil set the rules for your family.  Draw the lines clearly and Biblically and then stand by those lines.  Your boys will be able to tell if you’re merely trying to please others with your discipline or trying to please the Lord.  Stand firm.  Understand the things that matter most and let the rest go.”  Let the rest go.  What wisdom.

My mama lived 82 years.  She trusted Christ at an early age and served him with vigor from her teen years and on through adulthood.  She was never an addict, but addicts were welcome in my parents’ home.  She never committed a crime, but those who had been released from jail found solace within my parents’ four walls.  She was a brilliant academic since early childhood.  A teacher.  An administrator. But she found great joy in teaching adults to read.

If someone were downcast, marginalized, homeless, addicted, a missionary on furlough, a college student needing housing, or just a wanderer without a hope in this world, my parents provided a soft place to land.  A place where Jesus’ love wasn’t just talked about but demonstrated.  I can’t tell you the names of all the people who lived with my parents throughout the years.  I wouldn’t be able to count them all.

Mama wasn’t afraid of people’s messy marriages or catastrophic failures or sin because she knew the Savior.  She knew His love, His mercy, His grace.  And she wanted to share that great love with others.  Every time I set the table, I remember the way she did it.  She taught me that feeding people in our home was a joyful privilege, not a burden.  She was right.  Every time we meet with someone in crisis, I hear her words, “We pour out love and grace, because love and grace has been poured out on us in Christ.”

Mama died one year ago.  Oh, how I miss her every single day.  But not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for the things she left me.  I don’t mean her biscuit bowl or an old set of china.  No.  She left a beautiful legacy.  A legacy of love that will continue long past her death.

But I especially missed Mama last week.  I missed seeing her arm around Stephen’s shoulder and her beautiful smile.  The smile that would speak so very graciously without uttering a word, “Green hair?  I don’t care!  Jesus loves you and so do I.”


Do you feel like a failure?


Things I Meant To Do…

I’m 55 years old and there are a lot of things I haven’t done, things I fully intended to do.  I meant to learn how to play the guitar.  People who can play the guitar are always the cool people.  They look cool.  They act cool.  People who know how to play the guitar can reasonably dream of being the opening act for Reba McEntire’s comeback tour.  We all know the truth.  Reba would never hire a chubby 55-year-old woman to do stand-up comedy.  That’s just not the way life works.

I meant to order the Rosetta Stone program and become proficient in a foreign language.  Didn’t you?  Didn’t you watch those commercials and shout loudly, “I could do that!  I could learn Japanese on my lunch hour!”?  Yeah.  Me too.  But I haven’t.  I haven’t learned Japanese or Russian or French.  I used to know Spanish, but I haven’t practiced at all.  My lunch hour Spanish now consists of the phrase, “Can we get more tortilla chips?  Gracias.”

I meant to graduate from college.  I know.  That’s a big ol’ shock for some of you.  You’ve read my books or heard me speak and you just assumed I was a college graduate.  Life is funny like that, huh?   People assume I’m a college graduate because all the normal indicators are there.  My parents are teachers.  My husband is a college professor.  I can spell.  If college had been one big grown-up spelling bee, I can assure you I would have loved every minute.

I always dreamed of a college course where the professor walked in on the first day of class and said, “This class will be all about relationships and stand-up comedy and spelling.”  Yeah.  Take that, engineering folks.  Let’s see where the mathematicians are now.   Just kidding.  I love all of you math folks.  In fact, I fell in love with my college algebra tutor.  Math has been very good to me.  And yes, I’m sure a person can be a brilliant mathematician and a gifted motivational humorist all at the same time.  I mean, I’m 55 and have never met that person.  But I’m also someone who can’t play the guitar or speak Japanese.  So my life experiences are limited.

This December we’ll get all those annual Christmas letters from our highly-accomplished friends.  They’ll write about learning Russian and about their kids’ scholarships to Oxford and Princeton.  They’ll explain about the Mayan ruins they witnessed this summer and the new vacation house they bought outside Denver.  And me?  Well, I’ll write back and say, “We killed the tomatoes and the porch flowers again this year.   I still can’t play the guitar.  But I’m confident this is the year I’ll learn Japanese by listening to Rosetta Stone instruction on the way home from Dollar Tree.”

Actually, I’ll just smile and enjoy reading about their accomplishments from the warmth of our country home on the outskirts of Dresden.  I’ll hug my grown sons and be thankful for the blessing of their friendship.  I’ll kiss my husband and thank God I was so extremely deficient in algebra that I needed a tutor in the summer of ’87.  Yes, there are a lot of things I haven’t yet accomplished and that’s perfectly fine.  Oh, and Reba, if you’re reading this, please call me.

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